Best Cable Management Strategy

Our 2022 robot has experienced many issues due to our robot being kind of a mess. How does your team manage the mess of cables? Do you lay everything out, label cables, bunch everything up, or something different?

Routing cables through extrusion is very helpful. + a lot of zip ties :grinning:

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a LOT of zipties. made me think of this meme. image

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If your not putting on a few pounds on your robot just because of zipties, your not doing it right.

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Enough said.

Routing these is a whole different story

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I prefer not messy but there are worse things in life. We had students who’s aesthetic was neat tight cabling. The cables were pulled so tightly they were prone to disconnection during a match. Connector manufacturers publish recommended minimum distance between a terminal and an anchor point; it’s somewhat large and it’s best to give even more distance. The metal parts in a terminal need to float without stresses for proper alignment and grip. Neat cables can help win matches and minimize pit repair time. Too neat and you’re dead!

Don’t hide connectors inside frames or raceways. If you absolutely have to have a splice/connector that falls at an inappropriate place - don’t! Okay, do if you must, but be sure to label the exterior that there is a connector inside because you will be hunting for it when you need to fix it between matches.

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We make an effort to cad our component layout, and cutting in spots for zip ties, the sticky pads to tie to, etc. Clean and tidy wiring goes a long way when diagnosing problems. It’s not always perfect, but taking time to cut wires to length, route them cleanly, and ensure good connections is worth the effort.

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Sticky pad zipties/tiedowns and cable raceways. Routing cabling on the backside of panels, or through extrusion.

Hot take: Paint your robot. Everyone will take much more pride in the work they are doing and put in the attention to detail required for some good wiring, mechanical perfection etc. Perfect wiring, perfect length shafts, perfectly aligned belts.

You shoulda seen our silver practice bot…

Plenty of world class teams not painting (1678,973) and I wouldn’t argue that pretty robot = competitive robot however if that’s something your team values (we do) then setting expectations and standards off the bat is really the only way to get there.

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We only plan wiring ahead of time where there is a ‘major’ grouping, like a turret loop or a elevator loop.

The rest of the wiring really relies on some rules of Thumb.

  1. Find the shortest distance for the wire.
  2. Don’t route each wire in a different place. Create ‘highways’ that all your wiring runs through on the robot.
  3. Small zip ties every 6 inches or so to hold in place.
  4. Go back and verify that wires are never on the ‘outside’ of a component where an intruding robot can hit them and cut them. Sometimes it’s impossible to follow this rule - swerve units generally come to mind. These areas get guarded.
  5. If you REALLY want to be methodical, each red/back pair can be laid back to back with colors matching. Remove any twists from wires (aside from can wires of course).
  6. Each wire should have a inch or two (at least) of extra wire - usually placed at the ends or where ever there might be a connector. You never know when you may have to cut a wire.
  7. Every place that a wire could be unplugged needs to be labeled, clearly. We use a standard office label printer. The labels are large, but you really appreciate that in the pits or poor lighting.
  8. Try to group connectors together for things like swerve. Try to set it up so all the connectors are held with a single zip tie - cut the zip tie and unplug the connectors and the swerve module can come off.
  9. Areas where the wiring may be mobile - joints, turret bundles, elevator bundles, should be protected with energy chain or mesh jacketing.
  10. Strain Relieve! Any place there are connectors should NOT have strain on the wire. Wires coming out of motors, speed controllers etc. are critical.
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Here is a link I throw up on a computer while we wire, it’s collection of neat wiring from the last decade (I need to add more recent stuff).

I would follow a few simple starting rules

  1. Always provide an inch or two of strain relief at the start and end of connections
  2. Treat belly pan as a grid and have wires follow the perpendicular paths (never at an angle)
  3. Align wire with each other, black side up
  4. Pull test literally everything, crimp, housing, connector, and wiring once routed out

On top of that, use zipties everywhere. Don’t be scared about wasting them, you want to secure stuff and have it be neat as you wire. Feel free to cut a ziptie and add a new one in if you need to modify a bundle.

I agree with this, students taking pride in their work and being able to confidently point at the robot on field and say “it’s not going to die because I know I did the wiring well” is what you want to chase. You obviously don’t need to paint your robot to do this, I would try to first chase excellence in small areas where you can (like wiring) and expand out from there.

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I bought this stuff and brought it in cause I tend to have a little OCD about wiring being an electrician. Our electrical lead loved this stuff. You have to get the good stick down pads and make sure where you’re sticking it to was clean which they didn’t always do. I picked up sleeving from 3/8" to 1 1/4" we used it for air lines too

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The sleeving helped a lot because I had gotten them to switch over to silicone wiring, its so much nicer and more flexible, but the silicone wire doesn’t come as a zip cord with the wires attached to each other. You can buy the red and black together then buy a separate roll of white(for NEOs). Found it cheaper on Amazon than at Andymark or CTRE .

You can find some “zip cord” that is silicone, we had some 14ga and 18ga tinned tipped copper that we made use of on our robot this year with silicone in “zip cord” format, next year i am hoping we use more silicone wire as it lays down nicely. Partially this year and in previous years we used THHN wire for everything and it is VERY STIFF.

We have used slotted wireways for the last 4 years. First, they force you to consider wire routing when you lay out components. It makes wiring changes easier. When you put the covers on, all the mess is hidden.

We tend to reuse a lot of our components, so we tend to leave component cables full length and when a premade cable is too long, you just wrap it back and forth in the wireway. We use Lever Nuts for most wire connections. The wireways hide the Lever Nuts from those who think Lever Nuts are a bad idea.

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Are you talking about Wago’s? As long as you use ferrules with Wago’s i dont see a problem, actually they are fine with bare wire to be honest. Looking at your robot just makes me think of all the machine control boxes at work. Except it’s just the mounting board inside without the box. :upside_down_face:

Edit: after looking at the pic of their robot it looks like they are using some Wago’s but they’re using them on the motor controllers which is less than ideal. Would rather see Anderson power pole connectors for the motor controller to motor and to PDP wiring connections, thats for the 12 gauge wire.

Noticed no ferrules on the wiring going into the PDP, do you at least tin the wires? If you do neither how can you be sure you have a good connection without wire strands going everywhere. It’d also make reusing the wire harder without ferrules or tinning. :expressionless:

We use Wago 221-612 for the motor leads. We have moved away for anything crimped. We have had more problems with poor crimping than just using bare wires.

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That usually comes from bad cheap crimpers and crimp connectors. Ferrules are kinda hard to screw up.

Agreed. What we really need is better QC.